Punk Interviews

Interview: Explosive political punk duo Pink Suits!

"It often feels that the world is more divided, more confusing and more hostile."

It’s 2024 and I’m sure we can all agree- it feels like the world is a bit of a bin fire. Political polarisation, cost of living crisis, corruption and exploitation all run rampant, and even our avenues for dissent and resistance (industrial action and protest) are being gradually closed down. 

But, to labour one of my favourite punk-related quotes (by ex Black Flag vocalist Henry Rollins): “This is not the time to be dismayed. This is punk rock time!” I mean, if punk can’t tackle the myriad of issues facing us all now, then what can?

And so it is that Kent based duo Lennie and Ray have been using their music and platform to slam into political discourse head on. Since forming as a music act circa 2016 (prior to that the pair worked as dancers having both been trained in ballet), no social justice stone has been left unturned with commentary on capitalism, gender and sexuality, human rights and mental health forming the backbone of their songs.

And with a new album- ‘Dystopian Hellscape‘- on the way on 1st April, the duo can be confident they’ll never run out of things to sing about.

We caught up with the duo around the release of new track ‘Are You Gay Yet?‘ to talk about inclusion in the music scene, being compared to Crass and where to source the best pink outfits!

We met in 2014 at a party in London when Ray was travelling around Europe for dance work. We lived in London together and worked as dancers for a couple of years and made our first dance performance together in 2016. In 2017 we left London and moved to Margate, Kent, where we still live now.

Post 2016 we wanted to make work that was much more explicitly political. We wanted to talk about national and global politics as well as gender and sexuality and identity and found that dance work was often too obscure or abstract to tackle what we wanted to say.

We decided we should start a band in order to perform this work, so decided that Lennie would play guitar and Ray would play drums and that would be the band. We had no musical training. Lennie learned power chords from YouTube and Ray learned to drum on an electric drum kit that a friend gave us.

The new album ‘Dystopian Hellscape‘ is a follow up to the equally topical ‘Political Child‘ (2021) but with the pace of change (and decline) in the modern world, even a mere 3 years on from that album, there are yet more topics to be given the Pink Suits treatment:

That first album still has a lot of political relevance but was very much about a sort of 2016 -2021 time period, which now feels a world away politically.

So much has changed since the release of that album in 2021, and not really for the better. It often feels that the world is more divided, more confusing and more hostile. We are in the death throes of capitalism and the powers that be are doing all they can to limit our rights to protest and demonstrate, to strike and hold collective action. We are vilified and pitted against each other, they stoke culture wars and point fingers and deflect blame. This is the cultural backdrop for the new album, which is just as aggressively political as the first, but we think is a lot more musically and emotionally nuanced. 

We want to scream about our frustrations, but we also want to have some fun  and we want the audience to have fun too.”

And the band are certainly successful in being fun and giving their audience a good time. And that in itself can be a revolutionary act:

It can feel really difficult to observe the world as it is, the suffering and inequality and divisiveness and hate… and then go out and just have fun.

We sometimes see people just having fun and think ‘what are you thinking about!?’ but it is actually important to do this, to get out and enjoy life where we can. Not to forget about what is going on around us but to remind ourselves what kind of world we are trying to create. We want to build a society that in caring and supportive, inclusive and safe, accepting and loving, and when we gather in spaces like this and let loose and enjoy ourselves we are reminded that it is possible, that it is important and achievable.

I often look around at Queer punk shows and think ‘this is it’. This is what we need to create on a global scale, coming together in protest and rage but also in fun and silliness. It is essential for us to be able to keep going.

And balancing the fun and solemn is no easy feat, but it is clear that the flamboyant stage outfits and the mischievously fun imagery and acerbic lyrics do not dampen down the band’s message. In fact, Louder Than War compared the band to anarcho punk legends Crass- a band synonymous with ‘punk politics’:

We don’t come from music and so we are still quite new to the music world and the punk scene. We never set out to be a punk band we just wanted to write music about what we wanted to say. Then I guess the things that we wanted to say politically and the way in which we played it made us a punk band.

Our biggest influences really are the bands we have shared the stage with so it feels like we are getting a hands on musical education. When we play with a band we love we then rinse their music, we like very political bands like Bob Vylan, Lambrini Girls and The Menstrual Cramps.”

The band are committed to finding diverse gig line ups and encouraging promoters and venues to consider the representation when booking bands. And even in punk- a scene which tends to pride itself on inclusivity- this is still an issue:

There is still a long long way to go. We are mostly involved in the queer punk DIY scene which is a lot better in terms of diverse line ups and inclusion and access, especially in terms of female representation and Queer / Trans representation. But most line ups are still overwhelmingly white.

And for most venues around the country their programming is still overwhelmingly straight, white, cis male. We are playing something like 25 shows across the UK this spring are booked on line ups with very few POC bands. There is also still a huge issue with access in a lot of music venues and most DIY spaces are unable to put money into making significant changes to the buildings to improve access.

We would love to see a big push in funding and support for grassroots venues to work on becoming more accessible.

Pink Suits embody all that the modern punk scene needs- revolutionary and galvanising messages that offer astute commentary on the systems we have to navigate through. Listening to a Pink Suits song will have you saying “Oh, it’s not just me that feels this way”. And getting yourself to a Pink Suits gig will surely see you surrounded by kindred spirits. If isolation is one of the tools of the oppressor, then a DIY queer punk community is one of our tools to fight back. And if you can wear some cool pink outfits whilst you do it, then all for the better! But it seems like even if you don’t have a stitch to wear, that might not be the barrier you think it is….

We have so many pink clothes now and people gift us pink stuff all the time. Ray actually makes a lot of our outfits for on stage, so all of the suits we play in are custom made.   

We have also done shows naked before, so if you’re comfortable with that you are never short of an outfit!”

Pink Suits’ latest single ‘Are You Gay Yet?‘ is out on March 20th. 

Their album ‘Dystopian Hellscape‘ is out on 1st April. You can listen to via all major streaming platforms. 

The band will be on their own UK headline tour throughout April and May. See below for dates. 

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